Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Walking the Line

Group 1 discussed Case 1: the dangers of creating life in the lab. Craig Venter has paved the way for bio synthetics and when he finally steps down (will he?) someone else will take the reigns on the advancement of synthetic biology. We discussed everything from the possible origins of life and the physical world to where the line is drawn between the similarities of an orangutan (or a chimpanzee?), man's closest living relative, and a human being.
Is engaging in synthetic biology really dabbling in intelligent design (playing God)? The general consensus in our group was NO. Unless you design a way to store genetic information that does not utilize nucleic acids or build a living, replicating organism with something other than amino acids, then you are not even in the same sandbox.
But the most interesting debate took place along the lines of what separates Homo sapiens from Pongo pygmaeus. A soul? An energy field? A razor?
-Komron MacLean


  1. We had a lengthy discussion on this topic on Monday so I was afraid of feeling redundant coming into class today. I liked the conversation that we had starting off today, using synthetic biology to create items such as food, fuel, or even replacement organs. Jacob mentioned something pretty cool, reversing differentiated cells to their original undifferentiated states and then progressing them to a completely different cell type. The scientists that accomplished this both won last years Nobel Prize (In Physiology, I think. Maybe Jacob can find the article).

    We could create foods in a lab rather than utilizing thousands of acres for farming, not to mention having the potential to possibly reverse deforestation. These are just some cool observations that show that synthetic biology doesn't have to be an awful slap in God's face.

  2. I don't think synthetic biology is playing god at all, being that all we've done is utilize materials that already existed to make something that also already exists. In essence it isn't new, the only new thing is that we're doing it instead of nature. I think synthetic biology is a definite stride in the right directioHowever, I think our real concern should be if this new knowledge falls into the wrong hands. Will viruses be created to destroy life. Will governments use this as a way to rule the people? I think those possibilities are very real.

  3. Good points, Caleb. I believe that there is certainly no question as to whether or not someone will use this growing knowledge field in a less than appropriate manner. But it's the benefits, and man will/are they (be) awesome, that will force us to reconcile with this inescapable truth and embrace the use of synthetic biology for its benefits. I just read the other day about some scientists in London who have been able to make a 2-day genetic engineering endeavor take place in 6 hours. They liken it to the industrial revolution saying that before the massive advent of machines most things were made by hand, a long and tedious process. Synthetic biology is the same way. Every piece involved has to be assembled and this is one of the biggest impediments. This new process, as they have described it, really starts to open the door to automation for better research.

  4. I agree. I mean is it really creation or recreation? Because like I heard someone say in class the other day, It has already been created and all scientist have been able to do is "copy" blueprints since they already exist, therefore they are not "creating life" but "giving life."

    Humans will always find a way to misuse things in ways other than their originally intended use. I think that limiting biology may not be the best idea. However, I am also glad I am not the one burdened with deciding if and what the limitations should be. That's a huge burden and also something I battle with daily. Who, if anyone, should have the power to decide fate/life?